In the past, while the content of library materials might have been exciting, on the whole, libraries’ reputations were that of serious, settled institutions. Today’s libraries, however, are nothing like the archaic models of the past. Most are modern, forward-thinking organizations, which offer innovative programs and digital resources, in addition to traditional library materials. That has never been more apparent than right now when libraries are working quickly to overhaul their typical summer programming to fit our current reality of living in the time of a pandemic.
Austin Public Library
“We are definitely bracing for an unusual summer!” said Rachel Nguyen, communications director of the Austin Public Library. The Library is currently developing a completely new summer reading program, which will be entirely virtual. Summer readers will be able to select a program from the categories of early learners, youth, teens, and adults. From there, they will be directed to a page where their “quest,” or virtual challenge, will be listed. Users will download a “quest log” and will submit a form each time they complete a challenge. Submissions will receive virtual badges that can be inserted into the quest log.
Beyond the typical reading challenges, the quest log will include options for family experiences and other fun activities that patrons can easily do at home. The Library will also offer a traditional reading log option so that readers may track their reading similar to prior years, should they prefer a non-digital option. The Austin Public Library Summer Reading page can be found at austinsummerreading.com.
For students who need a little extra learning help over the summer to start the next school year off strong, the Austin Public Library will continue to offer its Brainfuse service. Brainfuse provides online, anytime tutoring for students in grades K-12, as well as for adult learners. Live tutors are also available every day from 2 p.m. – 11 p.m. The program offers a writing lab, test prep, and skill-building, a “live practice” language lab for learning Spanish, and tutoring in Spanish for many subjects.
Austin Public Library librarians have also curated several activities listed under the “Boredom Busters” section of the website. Each Boredom Buster includes an online story, then some type of related activity, such as a science experiment or an art project. The Boredom Busters also include interesting facts, presented in fun ways, so that kids stay engaged and learning.
In the teen section of its website, the Austin Public Library provides links to Mango Languages, a service offering language lessons in over 70 world languages, access to 20 English as a Second Language/English Language Learner courses, and Mango Premiere Films, a film-based, language-learning tool. Teens can also sample the Hoonuit service to learn skills such as Adobe Photoshop, or how to interview for a job.
Cedar Park Public Library
The Cedar Park Public Library is also moving its Summer Reading Club Challenge online, where it will be hosted on a new platform – Beanstack. Kids, teens, and adults can sign up and log reading minutes at https://cedarparktexas.beanstack.org.
The Library also plans to continue its performance offerings this summer but will be switching to a virtual format. Special performers and programs are already listed on the Cedar Park Library website online calendar, and the schedule will continue to be updated and expanded. A Summer Reading Kick-Off is planned for June 1 – 2. It will include a virtual book fair, in addition to performances by children’s entertainers, Silly Sparkles, and African safari music by Elizabeth Kahura.
The Library’s summer programming will conclude with Mini-Con, an annual “celebration of fandom in all its varieties,” and will include patrons’ favorite activities, as well as several new options. Mini-Con is scheduled for August 10 – 14.
Georgetown Public Library
Out of caution for patrons and employees, the Georgetown Public Library plans to offer its summer family programming virtually for at least one month. It may consider extending its virtual services into a second month. Library staff hopes to provide “grab and go” activities for kids and teens that can be picked up safely and completed at home. The Library is also looking into scheduling story times, science projects, and craft demonstrations virtually, but an official schedule has not yet been released.
Round Rock Public Library
The Round Rock Public Library’s summer reading program will run from June 3 – August 1 and will include a summer reading challenge. At the time of the interview, Library staff were still determining how much of this summer’s programming will be provided virtually. Up to date information can be found at www.roundrocktexas.gov/summerreading.
Summer brings the dreaded “summer slide,” or the loss of academic knowledge or skills during the break from scheduled learning. This year, students are already entering into the summer behind where they might have been, had the school year not been disrupted by the need to remain at home and to learn online. Reading is one of the best things that students can do to keep their skills fresh during the long summer break. Take advantage of all that Austin’s and the surrounding area’s libraries have to offer to help your child start out on the right foot this fall!
Alison Bogle is an Austin-based freelance writer and mom of three.